After a five year wait, Grand Theft Auto V is finally here. So does it live up to the hype? The short answer is yes – it’s bigger, more over the top and sees the return of much of the customization from GTA: San Andreas.
Read on for our full GTA V review.
Then there were three.
Set in Rockstar’s fictionalized California, San Andreas, around the sprawling city of Los Santos, GTA V tells the story of three very different criminals. Each has his own reasons for getting involved in a series of heists that you’ll take part in throughout the game. The three protagonists, Michael, Franklin and Trevor give the game a much broader scope than Nico Bellic’s rags to riches story in Liberty City. Michael is the bored, rich ex-robber with a family who treat him like a cash machine. Franklin is stuck in the hood, dreaming of bigger things, while Trevor is a drug-addled, unhinged man who, as well as living outside Los Santos, lives well outside most people’s concept of dignity.
Everyone will no doubt have their favorite character, and they allow Rockstar the chance to tell a much broader story than previous games. Each character, and the world they inhabit, is well realized and enjoyable. As always with Rockstar, there are plenty of nods to the movies and TV shows it’s inspired by.
GTA V’s world is enormous and detailed. Los Santos is huge by itself, and there is even more to explore outside in the mountains, deserts and countryside.
A huge game packed with things to do.
GTA V is full of things to see and do. The main campaign is long and varied, and there are lots of extra activities and side missions to enjoy. Cycling, base jumping, races, triathlon, darts and more await you, dotted around San Andreas. The big change to the campaign is how the three characters interact. During heists you’ll switch between characters when necessary, and there are also planning tasks to complete as you prepare for them.
Vehicles and weapons can now be customized. Your characters can’t be customized as much as CJ in San Andreas, but you can improve their abilities by doing exercise and training. Car customization really makes a difference: you can vastly improve handling and speed, and give your car a new look.
The map is huge, and you can spend hours just exploring the rich detail of San Andreas. Unlike previous games, you are not locked off from the full map from the start. This means you’re free to explore, but it’s more natural to discover the world as it’s introduced to you through the campaign missions. San Andreas feels really lived in, and is genuinely beautiful.
Gameplay evolution, not revolution.
GTA V brings in some gameplay features seen in Red Dead Redemption and Max Payne 3, including the weapon selection wheel and seamless cut scenes. The cover/shoot mechanics still feel like GTA though, so you’ll be right at home. Sometimes during combat in enclosed spaces the camera can be unhelpful, but for the most part it’s been improved since Liberty City. There are more controls this time around, but they are all well mapped and explained. Shooting while driving remains as difficult as I imagine it is in real life.
Vehicle handling has improved – again, it still feels like GTA. This is an evolution of driving, not a revolution. Vehicles often feel a bit light and floaty. The aforementioned customization means you can tweak the handling to suit your tastes more, which is good news. The return of planes is really welcome, and flying around the state is great fun.
More radio, and beautiful scenery.
The radio stations are really well curated as usual, offering you a broad mix of genres to accompany you as you travel around. GTA V also has its own original score for missions, which is especially effective in creating tension during heists. The graphics may be the same generation as GTA IV, but there are definite improvements. Character models look more realistic, and many little touches really make the game shine. Water looks fantastic, and the roads look cracked and worn, just like in California. Some vehicle models are pretty much the same as their GTA IV counterparts, but that’s to be expected as both games are set in contemporary times.
GTA V: worth the wait and the hype.
Grand Theft Auto V is a triumph. It’s funny, human and exciting, with a convincing world that you can really get into. The size and ambition of the game is impressive, and it’s done with confidence and style. Critics of the shooting mechanics and driving in previous GTA games will probably still be unhappy, but for everyone else, both have been improved and it’s great fun to play.
GTA V is an incredible game, and will keep you entertained for a very long time to come. Come October 1st when GTA Online is activated, there will be even more to recommend.